Public key encryption was invented 30 years ago, but even now most email is not encrypted. The Josephson junction was an inevitable technology in the early 1980s. Is quantum computing inevitable in the same way?
This isnt to say that none of these projects had an impact. However, what they delivered was far less than what was promised.
Its easy to get sidetracked to the reasons why these technologies failedconsumer resistance, the economics didnt make sense, technical difficulties, and so onbut these reasons are beside the point.
These technologies were all big in their day. There was lots of buzz. The experts predicted great things for them. But history shows that most inevitable technologies arent. In fact, most new products fail.
The moral of the story? Be skeptical next time you hear about the "Next Big Thing."
Bob Seidensticker is an engineer who writes and speaks on the topic of technology change. A graduate of MIT, Bob has more than 25 years of experience in the computer industry. He is author of Future Hype: The Myths of Technology Change and holds 13 software patents.